Not Everything I Get is For Me │ Simply Minimally


Just because something comes to me, doesn't mean it's always for me.

As someone who works with vintage clothing (the buying and selling of it) and someone who loves to wear it as well (half of my closet is vintage - sourcing for vintage can be the biggest job hazard in the world), I've found conflicting concepts are part and parcel to what I do.

Many times, vintage items I find are to be sold. 

Many times, vintage items I find are to be mine.

But a big one that has really made an impact on me the last few years is this one: many times, vintage items I find -- even ones that I thought would be mine -- are not always for me.

This sounds counterintuitive. Why not keep something you love? What's inherently wrong with that?

Well, nothing. There's nothing wrong with keeping something I love and can wear or use. But the moment there's a feeling of unease about the item, I know it's not for me.

What do I mean by unease? I'm talking about zero peace.

I can try to get this peace artificially and say to myself  "Oh yeah, this is for me. I mean it fits, it looks right, and I've been looking for this for years..." I can have all the reasons, excuses, and validation hallmarks to keep the item. It's for me, it has to be for me!

And yet, the moment I walk away from the item and come back to it, there's a glaring red light coming from it that no one else but I can see.

This red light is the absence of peace. And when I don't have that peace, I know the item isn't for me.

This happens in other areas of my life and covers new (not just vintage) things too. I'm talking about the trip to Target or picking up extra things at Costco.

I'm also talking about things people give to me randomly, or even gifts. Sometimes, I know the gift is to keep. Other times, I hesitate if it's supposed to be mine.

Have you ever gotten something and immediately thought of someone else who could use it or use it better than you ever could? I'm not talking about gifts you don't like. 

I'm talking about great gifts like a jacket, or bottle of wine. Or the random bookshelf someone gave you. Random stuff.

And even though you could keep these items, for reasons you can't explain, you second guess keeping it.

Here are a few questions I ask myself and how I assess that feeling of giving to others what isn't for me and why it's all a part of the minimal living movement. 

Is this something I need right now? If it is, that's great. It means I don't have to worry I've just acquired something I can't use and I'm not feeling weird about it. No red light glaring at me. Perfect. But sometimes I ask...

Is this something someone else needs right now? This is hard because some items I get I think are for me. But, if my first thought is "This should go to so-and-so," then the item isn't for me to keep. And sometimes I ask both ...

Is this something I could use, but also something someone else needs? Is this replaceable if I let it go? This is the confusing one. But the one to listen to. Often I think the item is for me (and have someone else in mind for it) but I know I'll find another one or be gifted another one sometime in the future. This happens to me all the time.

It's sacrificial giving, but I find it to be the best kind of giving.

The more minimalist I've become, I realize I can live well with less. And living well doesn't mean I need everything I think I need. Sometimes what I receive is meant to be returned to those around me

Of course, there are times when the item I find is for me and it's perfect and it's what I've been looking for. Some days I get what I both need and want. It's not about giving up everything. 

And other times, it is about letting go. Right now, I have a purse that I'm going to give away, a mug that I know is not for me, and a sweater I thrifted that I thought I'd be keeping for myself. They're not for me, even though I thought they were.

This can happen with food, clothing, furniture, books, everything! Stuff is just stuff and I'd rather give someone something I can do without that they could use to make their life better.

It is better to get, and give away, than to receive and hold onto something that doesn't belong to me. 

If peace isn't a part of your surroundings, then part with it and pare down. Perhaps it is meant for someone else.

Has this happened to you before? Let me know in the comments.


Small House for a Big Result │ Why a Small House Might be your Best Choice

A view of a dining room and living room
Dining Room and Living Room
Have you ever watched the HGTV show Tiny House Hunters? 

My husband and I have seen a few episodes. They're always challenging to watch. We love the idea of living in a smaller home, but a total of a couple of hundred square feet seems too small. And yet over and over, we watch families (with kids!) move into spaces that are 200 or 300 square feet.

And they're happy.

While our next move won't be a trailer, a refurbished bus, or even a houseboat, we want fewer rooms. We know we can't do a few hundred square feet, but we also know we don't even use what we have now. So something needs to change.

We live in a 2400-square-foot home. It's about twice the size of our last home. And it works perfectly for two oversized teenage/ adult sons who are in transition, alongside us two. 

While we've lived here for nearly 11 years, there are two rooms we don't use: the dining room gets used twice a year, and the living room is used as a music room.

There's a piano and guitar, banjo, and a music stand in the living room as well as a couch and all the furniture that comes with a living room. The music stuff has nothing to do with "living room" notions, and all of the instruments could easily be in a bedroom, family room, or office.

The living room is our "entertaining room" but we never entertain there. Even when it's Christmas, we utilize the family room for most of the day. I grew up in a very large, very segmented home, where there were plenty of rooms and plenty of space that wasn't in use. But because I was used to it, I wanted that in my home.

My husband questioned this, knowing full well that we probably wouldn't use it, but I persisted. Turns out, he was right. As he generally is most of the time. He's logical. He grew up in a home without a formal dining room. He knew what he was talking about. And I thought I knew what I was talking about growing up with a formal dining room.

My parents wanted to entertain in the dining room though. For me today, and our home, we want to entertain where it feels right. And that changes all the time. Our formal dining room is usually a forgotten space.

We don't use it. It's wasted space. The idea of having a dining room for guests and entertaining space is wonderful, but those rooms never get used when we entertain. The kitchen, the family room, and the dine-in kitchen space are our preferred choices.

Here's why we plan on moving to a home that's 1800 to 2000 square feet (or less) when we retire.

1. We only want space that we use.

As mentioned above, what's the point of heating and cooling space that isn't used? We're over it. The next home needs the necessary bedrooms and bathrooms, but if there is no living space or dining room, that's fine. We know that the dine-in kitchen - big enough to house a large table for guests - and a family room capable of entertaining are all we really need. There's zero point in owning space we don't use. If it's only to say we have the space, that's ridiculous. And vain. Less is more.

2. We don't want to take care of any more space than we have to.

So, you want to know who the housekeeper is for our house? Moi. After having lived in our first starter home of 1000 square feet, and then our second and third homes (1600 square feet and 1300 square feet respectively), I can tell you a small home is easy and fast to clean. It takes twice as long to clean our current home (or longer) and by the time I clean it, I feel like I need to start all over again.

Retirement is for focusing on what matters, whether it's family or activities. I don't want to spend it cleaning. I've done that for decades now. I'm good if that chore is condensed for the rest of my days here on God's earth.

3. Everything costs less.

Heating and cooling in California is astronomical. I'm sure it's bad in other areas of the states too, but here, when gas costs more, rent and food costs more than the rest of the nation, having to pay more on everything gets old, frustrating, and downright angering. If we stay in California when we retire or not, we definitely want to reduce our costs. Having a smaller home will do that. I can't wait to save money. I can't wait to spend the money we're saving on people or experiences we want or need to spend it on.

While everyone varies on their "tiny home" requirements, watching the Tiny Home shows allows us a glimpse into what it looks like to sacrifice and what it looks like to sacrifice for a result that brings in more peace. I want more peace in everything I do. Slow living and intentional living look like a life that is intent on pursuing peace rather than pursuing empty goals that only, in the long run, leave us more broke, more in deficit, and more chaotic.

While a 200-square-foot home isn't quite on the radar for us, a home that only allows for what we need sounds like a future I can live with. While it'll be a smaller home, our result will be big in terms of peace and stability. And that's all I want.


Reference Book:

There is a great book (and a beautiful one) called Small Spaces, Big Appeal. It covers homes 1200 square feet or less, but it really gives an idea of what a smaller space can do for those of us who are interested in downsizing.

Here's another one, Cozy Cottage & Cabin Design. A beautiful compilation of cottage-style homes perfect for those who want to see what smaller spaces look like that pack a cozy and gorgeous punch.

Mini Book Review on Minimalism │ The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

The Year of Less Book Cover by Cait Flanders
Have you read this book? It's called The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store.

I didn't think I had read this book until one chapter in I noticed it sounded familiar. Not familiar in the "Oh, I remember reading this" but more along the lines of "This seems like I know it but I don't know why" kind of familiar.

I quickly checked my Goodreads app and sure enough, in July of 2018, I'd read it. Huh. Why didn't I remember that? In Cait Flander's biography on Amazon, it notes that this book "went on to become one of the most sold nonfiction books on Amazon in July 2018."

I bet it was. That's when I'd read it too.

So, why did I forget I had read it?

It wasn't because it wasn't a good book. This book felt far more comforting and attractive than other minimalist lifestyle books I'd read. It was honest, down-to-earth, and even ugly real sometimes. I could fully relate to her. 

But, maybe that's why I couldn't remember reading it. Because back when I had read it, I wasn't relating to her.

In 2018, though I'd been pursuing minimalism for about a year (albeit slowly) I was still learning about myself, and figuring out why I wanted minimalism in my life. I was also going through a heavy time of turmoil in various things from my marriage (we're fine) to shifting of friends, even to career choices.

Despite the heavy things, just like the heavy things Flanders covers in her book, I felt more in touch and aligned with what she had to say almost six years later - and re-reading it for the second time - than I did the first time around.

I didn't remember reading it because I wasn't ready to read it. That's my takeaway. I didn't jive with her book in the same way I did now because I was a different person six years ago. While things are great and wonderful today (amidst the moments of normal hardships) I felt very in tune with what she went through to get to her minimalistic lifestyle. Far more in tune in 2024 than in 2018.

Now, this re-reading of books thing isn't unusual for me. Twenty years after the first read-through of Tuesdays with Morrie (I wrote about it on my other blog) I read it again and loved it so much more. 

I think it's because experience does things to us that we can't anticipate. Books that I didn't necessarily like years ago are some of the best books I've ever read today. It's remarkable how time changes us. Experience alters our thoughts. Humility makes us see how much we don't know and how much we're all alike.

If you haven't read The Year of Less, I greatly recommend it. It's not a long book and her experiences pull you into her story from page one. She represents all of us: wounded, trying desperately to survive and thrive; she is a human being finally seeing that to do better and to be better, she needs to focus on the important things, like less stuff and smarter choices... which happens to be the opposite of what the world wants for us.

I fully relate. 

Minimalism isn't a popular thing (even though it's had - and currently has - its trending moments). In a consumeristic culture, to want less and be surrounded by less, and to desire more of the life God wants of us is counter-culture. People don't get it, don't like it, and don't want to understand it.

Slow living isn't for the faint of heart. 

But going against the grain means we've opened our eyes. And I'd rather live with my eyes wide open and alone than with fools who follow each other like sheep.

Read the book. It's worth it.



Why Project 333 is Not For Me │How to Have a Minimal Wardrobe that Works for You

Have you read the book Project 333? The book is interesting and inspiring and the gist of it is this: wear only 33 pieces of clothing for three months. 

Here's the problem: I can't do only 33 pieces of clothing in my wardrobe.

A picture of a clothing closet
This is my closet (there are another
15 pairs of shoes not shown 
here.) There are seven dresses
on the left.

Nope. Can't. 

It's not that I can't physically do it. I am a minimalist, I know what a minimalist wardrobe is all about, and when I read Courtney Carver's book, Project 333, I thought, "Wow, that sure takes some serious minimalistic dedication."

That's coming from me. A minimalist. Someone who's been paring down, minimizing, and choosing slow living for the last seven years.

So, what gives? Why is this such a problem for me? And how can anyone who is looking to pare down their wardrobe be a minimalist if even the minimalist of minimalist (that's me) can't do it?

I'll tell you why. And it's simple: I don't want to do it.

And there's the rub.

I love clothes. I really do. And not only do I love clothing, but I sell vintage clothing. I look at vintage materials with a longing that even my coffee doesn't get. I love vintage fabrics, from quality tweeds, thick cotton, linen that hangs just right, and silk and denim that oozes with depth and patina. Clothing is a part of me.

I realize that this isn't a valid argument for holding onto clothes. We all love lots of things but that doesn't mean we need to keep them. But, for me, this is one area separate from most of my minimalistic lifestyle. It's a minimalism that is average, not extreme.

I love collecting, and I love vintage mugs and jewelry. I love jeans and jackets and I love collecting vintage Pyrex. But most of those things didn't cause me to stand up and say "Hold on now. Let's rethink this whole minimalism thing." I got rid of stuff in all of those categories easily and swiftly.

I'll gladly pair down things that don't belong in my life (even Pyrex one day, I swear... it's thrifting the stuff that I enjoy so much).

But get rid of my denim? Wait a second. Get rid of all of my vintage cardigans? Hold on now.

So here's where I'm going with this: Minimalism is wonderful. It has transformed my life. I've simplified everything, my stress load has diminished, and I feel like I can think and breathe and truly live in my home in peace. I've never felt better. Never.

But minimalism doesn't look the same on everyone. We don't all have to be the same type of minimalist. Courtney Carver was able to do 33 items every three months. That's a wonderful thing! But that idea is almost insurmountable to me.

Here's why I can't (and won't) do Project 333.

1. I need more variety:  I only have about 85 pieces of clothing in my entire wardrobe, including the shorts and t-shirt drawer. This is coming from someone who used to own upwards of 150 in her closet. I've minimized it drastically. But, sometimes, I need a few more sweaters than, say, two for winter. I need seven sweaters because I wear all seven sweaters and I'm happy with that. 

Is that excessive? Not if I'm wearing them. I don't feel bad about it. I love my vintage Aran sweater, and I love my vintage Norwegian sweater and it's sitting right up against my Cowichan cardigan sweater in my closet. They are all different and all beautiful. Variety is the spice of life, after all. 

Now, do I need 15 sweaters? No. I know this because I've pared down to seven from those 15. I find the perfect number of each item of clothing to be, not so coincidentally, about seven (future post coming about that). But I need the variety it gives me. I need to be creative with my wardrobe choices. And 33 items total won't cut it.

2. I love seeing all my options: Hiding away fall, winter, and spring clothing during the summer doesn't work for me either. I need options. I need to be able to take a long sleeve and pair it with shorts. Here in northern California, our day's temperature ranges can dramatically shift. Like over 40 degrees some days.

 It can be 32 degrees in the morning to then hit a high of 78 degrees later. Or it can be a low of 62 and reach a high of 102 later. 

We have to dress in layers. So hiding away my spring and fall clothing when I need them -- even in summer -- is counterintuitive. And this goes for every season. Our winters can be extremely mild, so hiding my short sleeves - the very ones I need to wear underneath my sweaters so I can peel off the sweater later - only aggravates me. I need all of my clothes in front of me. I need to visually see it all.

 Maybe it's a touch of OCD, but I don't care. This is what works for me. 

3. My minimalism isn't as minimalistic as her minimalism: And that's okay! It really is. I could do 33 items in three months, but if I did, it would be like watching a part of myself die. Sounds dramatic when I write it out that way. But as someone who is directly involved in fashion, from the love of fabric, the desire for quality vintage designs and creations, for craftsmanship and quality, to have a closet that hides what I love is like smashing my heart and putting it back into my body. It's just not going to work right.

What makes my mind come alive is having enough choices to create outfits that work for me, but not so many items that my wardrobe is stuffed (and with unworn pieces littered throughout it).

So, at the end of the day, it's about balance. And I need more clothing for my minimalistic wardrobe. If you can do 33 items in three months, more power to you. That is awesome. And maybe for one season (probably summer, since it requires fewer items to wear in general), I'll give it a go. I'd like to try it and see if I'm missing out on something important.

A closet up of shoes in a closet
My shoes
But for me, my minimalism journey looks like 85 items, 365 days a year — and that's not including shoes (28 pairs), jackets (10), or my underthings or yoga clothing drawer or accessories.

If you're interested in minimizing your wardrobe, I would recommend Carver's book. 100%. It's a fascinating read, she's a great author, and her concept hits home in all the right minimalism areas. But, if you're a little bit more like me, someone who showcases their creativity in what they wear, then 33 items for three months is too restrictive. 

Read the book, and find what works for you. If you need to hammer down that gavel in your wardrobe courtroom, then by all means, be ruthless. Pare down to bare bones. But if you need a little more creativity, then don't feel pressured to be so severe. I didn't and I'm happy. This is what works for me.

As always, less is more... but not if you're miserable. Be a happy minimalist. You don't have to be an extremist to be successful (unless that is what you want.)

Remember, minimalists come in all shapes and sizes. And mine looks like Project 85/365.